The Benefits of Cohousing

Live in a ‘village’. A community of individual households in private homes that share common space and amenities such as a community kitchen and dining area, meeting rooms, recreation areas, workshops, fitness facilities, and playgrounds. Cohousing communities are controlled by residents who manage the development democratically. A cohousing development is designed and organized to promote a sense of community rarely found in conventional suburbs or apartment buildings. Affordability is enhanced by the sharing of amenities and well being is promoted by the community cohesion.  

Affordability. A cohousing community can reduce the cost of living by sharing land and amenities. Residents don’t have to own everything they need: imagine shared vehicles, splitting the cost of IT services, bulk food buying! Young households don’t have to do without in a bare bones condo, while retirees can downsize without losing access to a shop or studio.

Control. The residents of a cohousing community make the decisions about how their community is run. This includes decisions about things like condo fees, repairs, investments on improvements, contracting out services like cleaning or doing them inhouse, and approval of new members. A democratic process like consensus or sociocracy is used to facilitate decision making and members will likely participate in training to improve communication skills needed in such processes.

Sense of Community. Cohousing fosters a sense of community that can be hard to find in typical suburbs or apartment buildings. The physical design and social organization support interaction and interdependence, helping to overcome the social isolation caused by circumstances such as long work hours, retirement, aging, childcare, or the move to a new city.

A Helping Hand. With community comes the opportunity to help and be helped: Maybe you need someone to watch your kids for an hour while you go to the dentist. Maybe you cook a meal for a sick neighbor. Maybe a neighbor fixes your leaking tap or uses the community car to drive you to the bus station. Simple acts like these come more naturally in healthy communities. 

Amenities. Are you a ‘maker’ without a workshop? Are you interested in canning but don’t know where to start? Would you have a garden or raise your own chickens if you had the space? Do you need studio or office space? Would you have an electric vehicle or a solar roof if you could afford the front-end cost? By sharing the cost of common amenities, these kinds of aspirations can become reality.

Fun. Cohousing can make it easier to engage in activities you enjoy with others: card games, music, gaming, book clubs, pot luck meals, … In a cohousing development, there are facilities for these activities and perhaps even some partners for your recreational endeavour.   

And the Disadvantages

Committees! A democratic decision-making process discussed above under ‘control’ is a critical feature of cohousing. There is no hired condo manager to take care of everything, this is done by the residents. Of course, this means committees and meetings. Big decisions will probably take some time to make, and you won’t always get your way.

Disputes. There are bound to be disagreements when multiple households live together in a community: Your kids didn’t put their toys away! Who didn’t pick up after their dog? Where is the shop vac? This is why there are committees to set the rules and perhaps 'peace keepers' to help with conflicts. Committees won’t stop the annoyance but we should all expect to be listened to respectfully.

Costs. While it is true that cohousing can reduce the cost of living in ways described above, in some ways it can also be more expensive than living arrangements like the conventional condominium apartment. The reason for this is that the community provides more amenities than the typical condo. Moreover, the residents may choose to make costly investments like shared electric vehicles, renewable energy or backup energy storage that lower ongoing operating costs but increase initial capita costs.